“I plan on jumping big at conference and getting that record,” said Orval ‘Dean’ Howard.
Howard, junior mass communications major, is one and three quarters of an inch away from breaking the Missouri Southern pole vault record of 17-01.75 feet, set by Matt Campbell at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, AR., on Feb. 12, 2005.
Howard recalls his high school track coach from his hometown in Marlow, OK., Coach Bobby Wortham, approaching him at a cross country meet in fifth grade to compliment his speed, acknowledge his height, and ultimately plant the seed that Howard would make a good pole vaulter.
“I remember watching pole vaulting videos with my parents until bedtime and I knew, yeah I wanted to do that.” said Howard.
Howard’s first time practicing was in an old fire station and all he did was practice the formation for his plant at takeoff.
“I got in the car and my dad turned around and he said, ‘You don’t want to go back to that do you?’ And I was like ‘yeah that was awesome.’” said Howard.
Howard’s father researched pole vaulting and found ways for him to get better as a vaulter. Even building what Howard says they call, “The Cube,” a rectangular workout area with pull up pipes and a pole vault stimulation.
Howard, who says he instantly loved pole vaulting, still holds the record for the Marlow Outlaws highest pole vault jump. On April 14, 2015, Howard’s last high school meet, cleared the bar at 15-06.00 feet.
Howard didn’t have a predetermined plan to attend college, but said in his second semester of his senior year of high school he received a phone call from Coach Brian Schiding, Director of Cross Country/Track and Field, and realized he could continue vaulting.
Initially, Howard was uneasy about living in the city. Compared to Marlow, Joplin is a big city to Howard. However, he credits Schiding for his decision to attend Southern.
“He reminded me a lot of my dad, and I thought ‘man if I have to go anywhere to college, I want to go there. If that guy’s going to be my coach,’” said Howard.
Howard, 22, is the oldest of three brothers. He says he is definitely a family guy. Going to school more than six hours from home makes it impossible to see his family as much as he’d like, but he’s found family within the vault squad.
Outside of track, Howard is a member of the Editorial Staff at The Chart. Last semester, Howard showed an interest in reviewing movies and was ultimately given his own weekly column called, “The Orval-all picture.” Since, he has obtained the editorial position as copy editor.
With a passion for writing and watching movies, Howard says his dream is to write screenplays. He still doesn’t know how to turn that dream into a reality but when he figures it out, his leading man will be Joaquin Phoenix and leading lady, Scarlett Johansson.
“In my free time I’ll research ‘how to write screenplays’ and piddle with that and who knows maybe one day I’ll write a screenplay,” said Howard.
When looking at Howard, his look tends to be of the embellished. Howard typically can be seen awaiting class on a bench outside Webster Hall wearing cowboy boots, 505 regular fit Levi’s, an oversized belt buckle and a smile.
“I was raised to wear jeans when you go out. I got four or five cowboy hats in my closet and belt buckles. It’s just how I grew up and where I come from,” said Howard.
Howard has lived on a farm with garden and cattle, but due to the timeliness of sports entering his life, Howard’s family didn’t keep their farm. He does recall cowboy trends filling classrooms of Marlow High School, much different to Southern.
Whether Howard is attempting to break records or writing a screenplay he says the praise is only temporary and he is in it for the people he can inspire along the way.
Although Schiding and Howard have decided to wait to make his third attempt at breaking the University’s school record until the MIAA Indoor Championships, Howard is determined he can break it this time.
“For him to be flirting with the record is a pretty big deal,” said Schiding.
Orval will attempt to break the record for his third time at the MIAA Indoor Championships in Pittsburg, KS, on Feb. 28, 29 and Mar. 1.